Acupuncture is a holistic medicine that began about 5,000 years ago in China. Other ancient forms of Oriental medicine include herbology, diet, energy-cultivation exercises, and life-style counseling. One thing that each of these methods has in common is the combined interest of the physical with the spiritual, or internal, being. Oriental medicine strives to heal with the idea that the mind is richly integrated with the body, that both must be attended. Given this ideology, it makes sense that one of the ailments best treated by acupuncture is one that begins in the mind and affects the body - anxiety.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., and it affects 40 million adults in the United States alone - that's 18.1% of the population.1 Another interesting fact is that with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorders, women are twice more likely to be affected than men. Acupuncture is one aspect of Oriental medicine that is known to be particularly effective in aiding anxiety.
Specifically, auricular acupuncture is used to reduce stress, maintain mental health, and ease anxiety. Auricular acupuncture is the use of acupuncture needles around the ear. It is known as a microsystem. This is a term used in acupuncture when one part of the body receives the focus of the treatment, such as the ears, hands, or feet. Auricular acupuncture can also be used as a diagnostic method since each of the 200 points of the ear are believed to be related to a specific part of the body.2
The method of ear acupuncture points to treat anxiety is increasing in use. In 1990, the Director of the World Health Organization stated "Auricular acupuncture is probably the most developed and best documented, scientifically, of all the microsystems of acupuncture and is the most practical and widely used."3 In a study conducted at Yale University by Drs. Shu-Ming Wang and Zeev N. Kain, 55 patients were divided up into three groups. One group received acupuncture at the Shen Men point of the ear only, one group received sham (or false) acupuncture, and the third received auricular acupuncture at the relaxation point high on the ear. The results were very positive for the relaxation group - they showed 'a marked and dramatic lowering of anxiety levels' within the first 30 minutes and continued to decrease in anxiety in the total 48 hour period.
Everyone is affected by stress at some point, and anxiety can be debilitating when it takes the form of attacks, fitful sleep, or extreme muscular tenseness. As with all healthy lifestyle choices, acupuncture should be practiced consistently and in good measure to ensure the best results. While the positive effects of auricular acupuncture can be felt immediately in reducing stress, adding it as permanent fixture in one's routine can ensure better mental health and a regular sense of overall wellbeing.